How Are Dogs Exposed to Asbestos?

Updated on July 2, 2019
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Discarded asbestos roofing is one way dogs become exposed.
Discarded asbestos roofing is one way dogs become exposed. | Source

How Are Dogs Exposed to Asbestos?

Dogs are often exposed to asbestos the same way people are, by being around old houses that are being repaired or remodeled. Asbestos was used in insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, and some types of flooring in the past. My dog was exposed to it by being around a junkyard where people disposed of old asbestos roofing tiles.

Dogs can also be exposed when they belong to people working in asbestos production, shipbuilding, or asbestos mining. Actually, it is even worse for dogs around repair sites because they get the asbestos on their paws and then inhale the particles when they lick them. They sniff around their environment all the time and are more likely to inhale asbestos particles as well as herbicides, fungicides, wood preservatives, and other chemicals.

If My Dog Eats Insulation Will He Get Asbestos Poisoning?

Most insulation that your dog comes into contact with is going to be fiberglass. Asbestos is not used in many countries anymore, but if you live in an older home (built before the 1980s), it is possible that it was insulated with an asbestos material.

Newer homes are insulted with Styrofoam panels or pink fiberglass rolls. Fiberglass can be dangerous. If your dog does consume any insulation material, his GI tract can be damaged by the fiberglass, or he might become blocked. No food will be able to pass, and he will die. If your dog eats fiberglass see your regular vet immediately.

Tora had been exposed to asbestos; this photo was taken before he developed a swollen abdomen.
Tora had been exposed to asbestos; this photo was taken before he developed a swollen abdomen. | Source

What Symptoms Will My Dog Have If Exposed to Asbestos?

One of the health dangers from asbestos exposure is the development of mesotheliomas, a cancer that affects the linings of the organs in the chest and abdomen. Some breeds are statistically more prone to develop this type of cancer, but maybe they were just exposed more often.

What can you look for if you know that your dog was exposed to asbestos? Most of the signs will depend on which area in his body is most affected, and it usually takes about a month between the owner noticing the problem and a veterinarian diagnosing it. Be sure to note:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty moving around
  • Swollen or painful belly
  • Swollen scrotum (my dog developed a non-healing draining wound on his scrotum)
  • Vomiting and reluctance to eat

Dogs that develop malignant mesothelioma are usually middle-aged or eight to fifteen years old. No veterinarian can diagnose this disease with just a physical exam; he will need to run a complete blood cell count, chemistry profile, urinalysis, and if your dog has fluid on the abdomen or chest it can be drawn off and sent to a reference lab so they can look for cancer cells. Your vet will want to x-ray the lungs to look for any other types of problems, like other tumors.

Finally, the vet can do an ultrasound and even a CT scan to see the tumor; sometimes mesothelioma does not show up like other cancer since they grow into the heart, lungs, liver, or whatever else is affected.

A swollen abdomen can be caused by many diseases, including mesothelioma.
A swollen abdomen can be caused by many diseases, including mesothelioma. | Source

Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma the Same as Lung Cancer?

The signs of lung cancer are not that different than mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. Your dog may start by coughing, have difficulty breathing, start panting even when he is quiet, stop eating because he cannot breathe when he does so, and eventually end up with a swollen belly.

If your dog has any of these signs, take him to see your regular vet. This is not something you can put off until it is convenient. The sooner your dog is diagnosed, the better his chances of eventual recovery.

How Can Mesothelioma Be Treated?

If your dog has mesothelioma, he can be treated surgically or medically. Surgery doesn’t work well since the tumors are invasive and usually have spread throughout the body by the time diagnosis is made. His chest or abdomen can be drained when needed to make him more comfortable, but as the disease worsens, he may need it every few days.

There are also several chemotherapy protocols for this disease, but a lot of owners choose to euthanize their dogs when diagnosed, so the protocols are really just human medical treatments that have been tried on dogs.

How Long Will My Dog Live If Diagnosed With Mesothelioma?

A dog's life expectancy after being diagnosed with mesothelioma is short.

No one can give you an exact answer. It takes time for most people to recognize the symptoms, and even more time to diagnose the disease. A 6-month survival rate would be good, but most owners see their dogs suffering and opt for euthanasia long before this.

Your dog cannot read this sign.
Your dog cannot read this sign. | Source

Asbestos exposure in people is uncommon now except during repairs to older homes; in the area I live in, asbestos is still used in roofing and dogs are still exposed all too often.

Several years ago, I lost one of my best companions to asbestos. (I had adopted him when he was already an adult "junkyard dog" and he had been exposed for several years. The workers were afraid to go in the pen with him, and they used the area to dump old asbestos roofing.)

Mesothelioma spreads quickly, and since it takes so long to diagnose, it is often quite advanced even before treatment starts. The best thing you can do is help him avoid exposure and protect him from this horrible cancer.

Has your dog been exposed to asbestos?

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Dr Mark


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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      17 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      No, it does not treat the cancer at all. It may, or may not, depending on who you choose to believe, help the dogs quality of life as he passes. As far as I know there is no proof of this.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      God help my moms dog that just got diagnosed .Does life gold for dogs help with this kind of cancer?

    • ktnptl profile image


      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Very informative, Mesothelioma is bad for pets just as it is for humans. Asbestos exposure should be prevented to pets. Here I have mentioned some symptoms for Mesothelioma which are same for pets also.

    • annm777 profile image


      7 years ago from High Peak

      I have a friend that has a dog that died from mesothelioma last year . . her story can be found here:

    • profile image

      Mesothelioma Help 

      8 years ago

      Interesting Hub. Raising awareness of mesothelioma and asbestos benefits more than just humans it seems.


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